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Founder, Nick Philpot

interviewed by Katherine Hajiyianni


"Pop-ups enabled us to test out various menus, formats and locations"

Established to provide exceptional food, elevating London’s perception of ‘grab and go’.

When you first began with the idea of setting up a takeaway food brand, did you initially set out for the concept to be based around the humble egg, if so what was the reason behind this?

We love eggs, and our Eggs Benedict might just be my favourite dish, but Yolk isn’t an egg-led concept. We serve ‘foodie’ fast food – we aim to be the memorable, exciting breakfast and lunch option. London is such an amazing culinary city, but ‘grab and go’ options are painfully dull. We wanted to bring some excitement to people’s working days.

Before establishing Yolk you had an office based job, what was the turning point that led to changing your career to food?

I always knew I wanted to set up my own business, and whenever I started daydreaming I’d always end up at food. It was the thing that really inspired and excited me. I’ve always been a food lover, but I had no experience in the hospitality industry. Eventually though, I thought I should stop talking about it and give it a go.

What have been the main contributors to your brand’s success?

I suppose perseverance, a great team and good advice. We’ve worked extremely hard from the beginning, despite some major ups and downs, and I think we wouldn’t be where we are today without being a bit stubborn and completely committed to the business. I’m very lucky to have found a fantastic team, who really make Yolk what it is and give me total confidence that the product and experience will always be at the right level. And I’ve received so much kind, generous and perceptive advice from those with more experience than I – so often I’ll learn more from a 20 minute conversation than I have through years of research and contemplation.

Yolk operated from several pop-ups before opening the first ‘bricks and mortar’ site, what do you think are the benefits of having a pop-up site for young operators?

Pop-ups were an amazing way for us to test out various menus, formats and locations. They allowed us to learn the business in a relatively low-risk way, and they helped us refine what Yolk is all about. We made loads of mistakes, and hopefully we’ve learned from them and we’re in a much stronger position now.

Yolk currently provides high quality food on a takeaway basis, do sit-in restaurants feature in the growth of the brand?

We’ll definitely be focusing on counter-service and takeaway for the foreseeable future. We’re planning to open a second, larger site this year, and that will have some seating for sure – but we won’t be a table-service restaurant. I firmly believe in the opportunity for a more distinctive, flavour-focused ‘grab and go’ experience, and I believe there’s a lot of growth potential for us in London alone. If we achieve our goals over the next 5-10 years, we do have some interesting ideas for an all-day restaurant concept, but that’s one for another day!

Where do you see the brand in ten years time?

I’d love Yolk to be the benchmark for exceptional ‘grab and go’ food. I hope that we’ll have a strong presence in London and beyond, but that we won’t have lost our independent feel and commitment to quality. And I hope that we still make people’s mouths water.

How has the fast, casual dining revolution in London affected your business?

In a leisure setting, Londoners are now extremely demanding and expect high standards wherever they eat – not just in fine dining restaurants. People are constantly seeking stand-out experiences and won’t accept run-of-the-mill. That’s great news for us. We take inspiration from the successful seated restaurants serving gourmet comfort food – Patty & Bun, Homeslice, Flat Iron, Bone Daddies, Chick ‘n’ Sours. These places have taken simple, unfussy food and elevated it to another level. It’s odd that grab ‘n’ go operators haven’t caught onto this movement and are still offering the same solid but unremarkable food. We plan to take advantage.

What future challenges and developments do you foresee in the restaurant industry?

I see staffing as a major issue, particularly in the wake of Brexit – it’s so hard to find good people, and such a large proportion of the hospitality talent pool is from the EU. Companies will need to get smarter about their recruitment and work hard to retain their best people. It also seems that a number of chains have expanded over-aggressively, so I expect they’ll have to retrench and the property market will see a lot of opportunity over the next 18-24 months.

What restaurant are you most excited by and why?

I just love Padella and am excited every time I go in there. It’s such a simple concept but so consistently delicious.

What is your biggest piece of advice for anyone considering becoming a restaurant operator?

Speak to as many people as possible and seek advice in the areas where you are weakest – be they marketing, operations, menu development, property or anything else.

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